[This Commentary originally appeared in the October 26, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
For years I have played volleyball. In fact, if memory serves correctly, I spent the last two-and-a-half years of high school gym classes dabbling in the sport. Yes, in those days, the team of SC3 proved to be truly entertaining. (You have to read that last sentence with the voice of Howard Cosell in order for it to be really effective.) Of course, the four of us had an advantage – we were always on the same team. That experience of teamwork, and the resulting rapport, far exceeded our scrawny, unathletic builds and helped make our unit equal to much larger classmates – a victory for all 98-pound weaklings.
Though we competed vigorously, no stressful seriousness spoiled our fun. We won some games, we lost some games. We didn’t enforce the rules strictly; after all, our gym class did not contain any professionals. We did, however, try very hard to stay within those rules. There was no point in being nit-picky – we just wanted to have a good time. In fact, everyone involved had a great time – even the gym teacher.
College offered the same opportunity. Relaxing amusement superseded the final score (which we often forgot to keep track of). We all just gathered around the net and started hitting the ball.
Don’t get me wrong, we always played to win. We always tried to make “the great play” (like the perfect set for the perfectly placed spike). But, we always considered the opposition. Being amateurs, players from both teams hit the net a lot (this is against the rules), yet we didn’t notice the infraction unless it disrupted the other team’s play. Up front, the big guys played a tough game when matched against a peer, but always let up when they had an obvious height or strength advantage (having fun means no one gets hurt).
Casual competition is healthy, relaxing and enjoyable. I jump at any chance to engage in it. For a couple of years now, I’ve played volleyball at an area establishment. It’s a coed league and I thought it might be fun. Wrong. The bar attracts too many people, including pseudo-jocks who think it’s macho to spike a ball hard and fast into the face of the weakest player (usually a woman) of the opposing team. Also, the slightest error is called – even against a team who is obviously going to lose but is trying their hardest.
This year, I discovered the wonderful occasion provided by the Mendon Recreational Board: Monday Night Volleyball at the High School. I’ve been attending religiously and it’s been an absolutely great experience. It’s casual competition at its best. The informal atmosphere makes it an enjoyable and carefree adventure. Amazingly, everybody is on the same wavelength – sure, we’ll give it our best shot to win the game, but we’re always making sure we’re having fun.
Now, if anyone doubts the sincerity of my attraction to Monday Night Volleyball, I need only point out that I have yet to see an opening kick-off on ABC. More significantly, I have yet to see a first quarter of a Monday Night game involving the Buffalo Bills. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
I can easily wax nostalgic on the gym floor, harking back to my junior and senior high school years. The people are fantastic, too. Here I am, a newcomer to the Monday evening festivities, yet I am treated like an old friend. Wow. I like that.
In fact, sometimes I worry if I’m not being too competitive. My need to maintain a steady sweat has me running all over the playing field. I have a little impatience when the ball is not in action. One time I even scaled the face of the bleachers to get a loose ball so we could resume play. “What is this – the Marines?” said someone in the background. I was momentarily ashamed of my intensity, but only until I realized I could still do a chin-up after nearly a decade since last doing one.
Monday Night Volleyball is loads of fun and good all-around exercise. Physically, you use almost every muscle in your body. Mentally, it permits you to leave the office at the office. Socially, it is unsurpassed. I cannot glorify it enough.
Hmm,… Chuck, I know you get the paper and may even occasionally read this column. Why don’t we see if we could get Ron one of these Monday nights? It’d be fun to see if at least C3 could muster up that old magic.
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]